Pandemic Unemployment Payment: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Mick Barry on Wednesday, 7 October 2020:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes:
— the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country;
— the continued public health guidelines and restrictions and their effects on employment and people’s movement;
— the consequences for many thousands of workers across the country;
— the likelihood that other counties may join Dublin and Donegal in higher levels of restrictions in the coming weeks;
— that the Government rhetoric of ‘in this together’ is contradicted by the cuts to the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the ending of the eviction ban and rent increases;
— the need for the income of all workers and their households to be guaranteed in order to allow for the successful implementation of the necessary public health measures;
— that in recent weeks over 19,000 new claimants have applied for the PUP, reflecting the consequences of the current surge; and
— the increases in those claiming the PUP in areas affected by the recent restrictions, with Dublin, for example, now accounting for over 85,000 claimants in total with 10,000 new claimants directly following the increased restrictions;
condemns:
— that on 17th September, the Government moved to reduce the PUP for the second time;
— this move, which reduced the payments to over 217,000 people by €50, with many others seeing a reduction of €100 per week;
— these cuts which come on top of an earlier reduction that affected over 60,000 workers in June;
— that the Government added a new requirement for all recipients of the PUP to be seeking work;
— that on 1st September, the State reduced the amount of subsidy to employers in receipt of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) which has had an impact on many workers’ pay;
— that this entailed a reduction for workers from a headline figure of €410 to €203 per week; and
— that the Government did this with no attempt to ensure employers availing of the scheme would top-up the income of workers who faced this cut;
recognises that:
— the fight against Covid-19 is ongoing with future surges and waves that will continue to restrict employment and movement across the country; and
— those workers affected will need income guarantees to cope with the ongoing effects of the pandemic;
calls on the Government to:
— immediately reverse the cuts to the PUP introduced on 17th September;
— ensure that all workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic are supported with a minimum payment of €350 per week, including those over the age of 65 and seasonal workers;
— ensure that workers in the taxi, arts, entertainment, events, hospitality and tourism industries, and others whose industries are specifically affected and show no sign of returning to pre-Covid-19 levels of activity in the medium term, are supported with tailored and targeted schemes, involving step-down payments to allow for partial returns to work in an ongoing Covid-19 crisis;
— remove the requirement for all recipients of the PUP to be seeking work;
— review, in the interests of equality, all other social welfare payments, including disability, pensions, jobseekers and others with a view to establishing a universal minimum welfare payment of at least €350 per week to lift all in Irish society out of poverty; and
— ensure all employers availing of the EWSS are topping up their employees’ wages; and
further calls on the Government to ensure that:
— profitable companies, and companies with reserves, are not permitted to avail of the scheme, unless they can clearly demonstrate an inability to pay, or use this crisis to arbitrarily cut their employees’ earnings;
— where an employer can clearly demonstrate an inability to pay top-ups to their employees, that workers’ incomes continue to be supported by the State, and that this be funded through a Covid-19 levy on large profitable enterprises; and
— where a complaint against an employer is upheld by the Workplace Relations Commission or Labour Court under the Payment of Wages Act, 1991, regarding deductions from an employee’s pay, that employer shall lose their entitlement to the EWSS.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
“recognises the financial hardship the Covid-19 pandemic has imposed on households;
commits to continuing to support people and businesses affected by Covid-19;
notes that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has spent over €3.68 billion on the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) since its introduction in March 2020, and that this is expected to increase to some €5.2 billion by April 2021;
recognises that the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) are important supports put in place by the Government to counter the economic challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and that the Government is committed to supporting employment by means of a wage subsidy until the end of March 2021;
notes that TWSS was introduced as an emergency income support for employees of vulnerable firms and was in place from 26th March 2020 until 31st August 2020, and that over this period payments worth €2.85 billion were made to over 66,000 employers with over 664,000 employees receiving at least one subsidy, with an estimated 360,000 employees directly supported by TWSS at its close;
recognises that the PUP was introduced as an emergency measure to support people of working age who lost their employment and was originally intended to be a short 6 to 12 week payment — this scheme has supported almost 800,000 individuals;
recognises that changes to the payment rate since 17th September, 2020, means that the Government is in a position to extend the scheme until April next year and make it more sustainable by linking it to previous earnings;
welcomes that the Government has agreed that the scheme will remain open to new applicants until the end of 2020, and this means that anyone who loses their employment due to Covid-19 over the coming months, including those who may have returned to work but may be affected by new closures, can avail of the support;
notes that the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) was asked to undertake a social impact assessment of the impact of the introduction of revised rates of payment from September 2020 and found that the changes made had very little impact on the risk of poverty or deprivation;
recognises that workers from all sectors have been affected and continue to be affected by the job lay-offs as a result of Covid-19 and that income support arrangements need to treat all affected workers equitably;
notes that those 47,900 recipients whose prior income was less than €200 per week received €203 this week, and are better off than when they were working;
notes that 36,070 people who previously earned between €200 and €300 per week received a payment of €250 this week, and most people on the €250 payment are being paid in line with their pre-Covid-19 weekly income which on average was €248;
recognises that special arrangements are in place for self-employed people, and these arrangements mean that a person does not lose entitlement to the PUP if they take up intermittent or occasional work;
acknowledges that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has advised that it will take a reasonable and flexible approach in applying the ‘genuinely seeking’ work condition to workers who remain temporarily laid off in sectors that have not reopened;
welcomes that a total of some €112 million was provided to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection as part of the July Jobs Stimulus package to provide an expansion in employment services and supports including 45,500 new places on schemes and services — this includes the provision of €12 million for the extension of the Enterprise Support Grant to assist eligible self-employed individuals who exit the PUP to restart their business;
notes that a person of any age, in any sector, who is experiencing financial hardship can apply for financial assistance through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s means-tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance;
welcomes the extensive range of supports provided by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, including the Restart Grant and the Restart Grant Plus which represent a combined total of €550 million set aside to assist businesses to meet ongoing costs while closed, and to help fund reopening costs; and
welcomes the sector-specific initiatives including for those sectors facing prolonged closures, including the arts and entertainment sector, tourism and hospitality and those by the National Transport Authority to assist taxi and other small public service vehicle drivers.”
- (Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection).

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to amendment No. 1 in the name of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to the motion re pandemic unemployment payment. This morning on the question, "That the amendment be made", a division was claimed and that division must now be taken.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 86; Níl, 62; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Mick Barry and Richard Boyd Barrett.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 8 October 2020.